SAT or ACT – Why Kids Should Focus on Building Vocabulary Early, Starting in Grade 6
Alright, we agree with you – standardized testing is no fun. And there are plenty of valid reasons to believe that standardized tests aren’t really the most accurate measure of a student’s intelligence and level of education. Regardless, tests like the SAT and ACT are a cornerstone of our education system, so it’s important that students are ready for them.
The fact is, students who build robust vocabularies will earn higher test scores. And the earlier a student begins focusing on vocab, the more easily they’ll learn and retain the meanings of new words. Slow and steady from 6th grade onward is vastly preferable to a late high school, SAT-inspired cram.
Does this mean we should be feeding our 6th graders a steady diet of dictionaries and flashcards?
After all, it is now widely understood that rote memorization is insufficient for cultivating meaningful knowledge retention and transfer. Even the standardized tests themselves have backed away from emphasizing rote learning – as of 2016, SAT vocab questions focus on analyzing word usage in context rather than pure definition recall.
Functionally, this means flashcard-style memorization is no longer a valuable study method. Luckily, innovative platforms like VocaTales have arrived to fill the void, emphasizing creativity, critical thinking, and context-based learning. Plus, VocaTales is structured more like a free game than a study service – far more appealing to 6th graders on up!
But really, 6th graders? Is it really necessary to focus on building vocabulary at that age?
It sure is! In fact, vocabulary can be integrated even sooner, during early childhood education. The earlier a child begins assimilating new words into their working vocabulary, the stronger a foundation they’ll have for further vocab expansion as they get older – roots will be easier to recognize, new words will be easier to retain, and their critical-thinking skills will be sharper.
And of course, all of this adds up to a student who’s far more prepared to excel at the SAT and/or ACT when testing season arrives.
That makes sense… but do 6th graders really need to be thinking about standardized tests, college admissions, and score charts?
No, no, and no! Of course not. In fact, 6th graders shouldn’t be thinking about those things at all.
There are plenty of other reasons why studying vocabulary is important, and these should be emphasized far more than test scores. Studying vocab improves reading comprehension and writing ability, and strengthens communication skills – these are real, tangible benefits that young students can take pride in! Better performance on future tests is just a helpful side-effect.
And besides, the actual motivations of a 6th grader are very simple: they want to play games and have fun! VocaTales is designed accordingly, more like a playground than a study guide. When students are having fun using their imaginations, telling stories, and playing with language, better test scores will follow.
Okay, so clearly 6th graders will benefit from time spent exploring VocaTales. But how else can we help students learn new words without burning them out on lists and study guides?
Avoiding burnout – which, in severe cases, can lead to dropout – is one of the major reasons why students should get started on vocab ASAP. A slow and steady pace is less stressful, more effective, and more fun. Give your students the luxury of time so they can explore the English language at their leisure… and avoid study guides with titles like “20 Million Words You Need To Know Before Tomorrow, Or Else…”
Aside from taking advantage of innovative platforms like VocaTales, empower your students to read and write on their own as much as possible. They don’t need to be reading Shakespeare or writing sonnets. Anything they enjoy – reading comic strips, writing jokes, whatever – should be affirmed and encouraged. If it’s made out of language, it gets the thumbs up!
As a general rule, try to avoid overemphasizing the dictionary and thesaurus. Those are useful resources, but not the end-all-be-all. Remember: the goal isn’t to get your students to study words but to play with words. Get a 6th grader excited about stories and inspired by language, and they’ll discover more on their own than you could ever hope to teach them.
And yes, that means they’ll be ready for the test. SAT, ACT, ABC, XYZ – the letters don’t matter. Wordplay now and they’ll ace it later!
Sounds good to me! Where do we get started?
Click here and let the games begin!